Honoring Philip Levine with reading room

A national poet laureate’s legacy lives on and will give students a space to be inspired and explore their own creativity.  

Philip Levine was a Pulitzer Prize winner who taught at Fresno State from 1958-92 and was the national poet laureate from 2011-12. Levine passed away Feb. 14, 2015.  

The Levine family announced plans for the reading room to the public on Feb. 20.

The Philip Levine Reading Room will be on the second floor of the Henry Madden Library.  

“The construction is a conversion on the second floor of the library overlooking the Peace Garden. We are envisioning this room that it will have minor changes to the existing room that we have right now,” said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities.

“After these changes are made to the room we have right now, then the second phase would be to decorate the room, put up shelves and book shelves,” Jiménez-Sandoval added.

When construction will begin on this project is still unknown.  

“The construction is contingent on private support, so when we secure the private support then we will have a more definitive timeline,” said Moon-ja Yunouye, director of development for the College of Arts and Humanities.

“The books are Levine’s personal collection, and many of the books include his annotations, his notes and some of the books are signed by the authors, who he received them from, so this is definitely Levine’s personal collection,” said Jefferson Beavers, administrative staff member.

The family is donating over 2,000 books from Levine’s collection.

The reading room will be a place for students and people in the community to go and explore Levine’s talent and interests. There will also be creative writing workshops, along with public readings and visiting writers.

Many of Levine’s writings expressed concern for the average day-to-day people in society and the environment in which he lived.

“Phil wrote about the worker and the laborer. His most famous book is the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection ‘What Work Is.’ It’s really what put him on the map in terms of national poetry,” Beavers said.  

He also wrote about class and family.

“We are excited for the university community as well as the Levine family to have this permanent space be a very tangible and living space for creative thought and writing commemorating Phil Levine’s career and his legacy,” said Yunouye.